Hagia Sophia

December 24th, 563: The Byzantine church Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is dedicated for the second time after being destroyed by earthquakes.

The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) is the third church to be built in this site. The Byzantine emperor Justinian I ordered its construction in 532 after riots destroyed an earlier church on its site in Istanbul. It was finished in just five years in 537 and was then the world’s largest building. It served as the Greek Orthodox cathedral and was the place where Eastern Emperors were crowned.

Regarded as the height of Byzantine architecture it is famous for its massive dome and for its mosaic decoration inside. It stood as the world’s largest church for nearly a thousand years, only surpassed by Seville’s cathedral in 1520. After the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453 the church was converted into a mosque. In 1935 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made it into a museum, which it remains.

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